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Carl Phillips — 2021 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize Judge

It is with deep appreciation and much excitement that we announce Carl Phillips as our next poetry contest judge! Phillips will select the winner, honorable mention, and finalists for our poetry contest this fall. Submissions will open on October 1, 2020.

Carl Phillips is the author of 14 books of poetry, most recently Pale Colors in a Tall Field. Since 2010, he has been the judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. In 2011, he was appointed to the judging panel for The Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards. His collection of poetry, Double Shadow, was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award for poetry. Double Shadow won the 2011 Los Angeles Book Prize for Poetry.

Phillips was a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2008 to 2012, was nominated for the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize for Silverchest, and was the 2013 recipient of the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement. Carl is currently a professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, and he also teaches creative writing. To learn more visit https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/carl-phillips.

2020 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize Winners

december is honored to present audio recordings from our winner and honorable mention for this year’s poetry contest. These poems are featured in Vol. 31.1; to purchase or subscribe click here.

Kimani Rose — 2020 Winner, River

River

I went to the river and was told to pray
told to sink myself into the ocean’s favorite runaway memory
and breathe
inhale the seawater and exhale the salt that remains

my grandmother’s grandmother was the daughter of a water woman
mami wata sueña que sus chicas recuerdan de dónde venían
soak our feet in the rich earth and step into the clay
hunde
down to our necks to harden and make our skin soft copper again
make our hands clean of the scars we cannot remember getting
turn into grip
and hold

only here do I know where home is
only here do I know the ways to put me back together
after I am away and I forget that I was once a water baby too
after I handed the crossing guard a penny for my thoughts,
a dollar for what I had inside
we traded and I carried my ocean’s memories
I carried her legacy branded dreams
yet I was still not empty
still not free

las diosas suplicaban se oídas
escuchar el río
remember who you were
and pray


Carolyn Foster Segal — 2020 Honorable Mention, The Mirrored Room

The Mirrored Room*

I knew the legend — how
Theseus, saved by the love
of a good woman, turned, how Ariadne
was left, spinning in circles
at the heart of the labyrinth. And still,
on that January day,
I went with you. We were coming
from Niagara Falls — I thought only later
how funny it was that we started there — where couples go
long after first desire, when everything has already begun
to turn into something else. The falls
were stopped, shut off for repairs —
all that exposed rockface, the frozen rivulets,
a cliff at the end of the world
as we knew it — but as I said earlier, I wasn’t thinking
in symbols that day — and, anyway, we continued on,
to the museum with the Mirrored Room. It was like
a house in a fairy tale, and you made an awkward bow,
a parody of a gentleman, and let me go first. And when I crossed
the threshold, and stepped onto the glass floor, I saw — felt —
it fall away, and as I fell, the walls turned
into other walls, further and further away, until
it was impossible to gauge the distance
I had already traveled. Years later, when you say
you don’t remember, when, breathless with panic,
I try to retrace our path
to that day for you, here is what I recall: You took
my hand in that room as I fell and fell, and when
we left the room, left the museum, it was late
afternoon, it was already growing
dark — you were still holding
my hand — and the trees
along the walk
were covered in ice
and shining,
shining.

*Lucas Samaras, Mirrored Room (1966),
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

buzz spector shares a poem

Artist/scholar Buzz Spector is looking forward to his survey exhibit of works on paper that will open at the Saint Louis Art Museum later this year. Known for his installations made of books, Buzz’s works include sculpture, photography, papermaking, and drawing. He is also the recipient of countless honors and awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts.  As Art Editor of december, Buzz offered to read “I Move Through Space As Other’s Move, Am Moved by Them.” by H.L. Hix from Volume 24 for the Poetry with Purpose project. Post your own reading, tag it with #december_mag and any of the hashtags below…and ask your friends to do the same. We’re hoping to make this like the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS… with poetry, for poetry. www.decembermag.org @december_mag #decembermag #poetry #poetryofinstagram #writersofinstagram #poet #instapoetry #poetrywithpurpose #poetrycommunity #poetlaureate #buzzspector www.decembermag.org

a short story by c.j. spataro

Some of us write about real experiences, even in fiction. Some of us engage in absurdity, full-on imagination based on nothing more than an idea. The rest of us fall between, writing about hopes and dreams, fears and nightmares. Those fears can be compelling subject matter; at least, that’s what we thought when we published C.J.’s Spataro’s prescient virus story, “The World As We Know It” in Vol. 30.1 last year. With its eerie opening line — “We live in a season of viruses.” — the story boldly predicted some of what we’re all experiencing right now. As Spataro recently told us, “I feel like the story is haunting me. When I wrote (it), I was sort of doing what we all do when we write, playing a game of what if.” What if, indeed. We decided to post this story again on our website now not to create yet another trigger or to dwell on the scariness of viruses and pandemics, but as a reminder about the power of literature to help us make some sense of what’s going on around us and inside of us. 

Click on this story to read more.

2020 pushcart nominations


Here at december, we are grateful for all our contributors. One way we show that gratitude is by nominating our contributors for prizes and by sending our journals off to all the contests we can. Pushcart is one of those contests. When the time comes it’s never easy to select our Pushcart nominations because we love everything we print. After much deliberation between our advisory editors and staff we’ve chosen our nominees for 2020. Major congratulations to these writers and major thanks to everyone who is part of the december community.

You Enter Milk Run — Jennifer Atkinson – Vol. 30.1 (Poetry)
The Land Behind the Fog — Andrea Eberly – Vol. 30.2 (Fiction)
Re-Wind  — J.I. Kleinberg – Vol. 30.1 (Poetry)
Three Recordings — Christopher Merrill – Vol. 30.2  (Poetry)
I Will Not Be Requiring the Services of a Sherpa  — Jeremy John Parker – Vol. 30.2 (Fiction)
Gumball Electric  — Sarah Treschl – Vol. 30.2 (Nonfiction)

2020 poetry contest judge — Aimee Nezhukumatathil

We’re pleased to announce Aimee Nezhukumatathil as our 2020 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize judge. She earned her BA and MFA from the Ohio State University and was a Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is the author of four poetry collections, including her most recent, Oceanic (2018), a collection of illustrated nature essays, and an epistolary nature chapbook (with Ross Gay). Ms. Nezhukumatathil is the recipient of Pushcart Prize, an NEA fellowship, the Angoff Award, the Boatwright Prize, the Richard Hugo Prize, and a fellowship to the MacDowell Colony. Her work has been anthologized in the Best American Poetry series. She was the 2016-17 Grisham writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi, where she is currently a professor of English in the MFA program.

from the vault: edmund skellings

december Vol. 1.1 — 1958

Greek Gods

The old gods are now unkempt
As pastured goats.
They bleat sick song when passing pendants
Twist their tales,
Sit sulking, dream of unbroken temples,
And fight listlessly among themselves.

But I have read of their one-time rage
And the lightning in their eyes:
They ate at great table,
Chased frighted falcons from the skies,
Made awed poets sing,
And laughed loud
With the women of a king.

Then
Neglect locked
Like an iron door
On doctored philosophy’s hysteric gods,
And left men quiet
With remembering.


Throughout his career, Edmund Skellings was a cutting edge poet and artist, combining poetry, visual art, sound, and computer technology in new and innovative ways. As Poet Laureate of Florida from 1980 until his death in 2012, he worked diligently to bring poetry and literacy to young people.

Skellings earned his BA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and his doctorate in English from the University of Iowa, where he taught prosody and metrics in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. In 1963, he founded the Alaska Writer’s Workshop at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and also organized the Alaska Flying Poets, five professors from the Workshop who flew a small airplane around Alaska and the Midwest to talk to high school students about the value of learning to write well. In 1967, Skellings joined the faculty of Florida Atlantic University; in 1973 he became Director of Florida International University’s International Institute of Creative Communication, which brought poetry to more than 100,000 children in South Florida.

The Evans Library of the Florida Institute of Technology is currently digitizing Edmund Skellings innovative multimedia archives. To see more work by Skellings visit http://research.fit.edu/edmundskellings/

2019 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize Winners

december is honored to present audio recordings from our winner and honorable mention for this year’s poetry contest. These poems are featured in Vol. 30.1; to purchase or subscribe click here.

Mark Wagenaar — 2019 Winner, In Praise of Improvisation


Yiskah Rosenfeld — 2019 Honorable Mention, Inside the Room Outside the Night

INSIDE THE ROOM OUTSIDE THE NIGHT

A kettle whistles on the other side of the wall,
3 barks from a dog thump the black night,
but inside it’s just 3 bulbs and a slow-ticking clock
ventriloquist heart throwing its voice to the windowsill.

Like the moon held up to the ear,
I listen quietly for myself
she’s in here somewhere — under books,
between voices and lost scents through the windows.

Let each wall tell the story of safety as if it were new,
grow four mothers in the telling:
safe says the 2-windowed wall against the garden,
safe the double lamped wall concurs, like 2 eyes watching over my bed.

Safe, safe, safe say the 3 windows on the next wall.
Even the wall’s story made of closet doors ends happily.
Inside myself it’s night-quiet, night-dark,
as if these were the real windows of the room:

2 eyes, nose, mouth, and, below, vagina
with its wrinkled, folded drapes — 5 windows
leading to the dark, infinite outsideness of in.
Is this why I never fit, walking around inside out,

trying to gain entrance, when all the doors open inward?
Imagine dissipating, refracting through the windows,
5 selves knocking at the glass asking their way
back to the lamp and the wide-hipped bed with its flowered pillows.

Who wouldn’t return to such softness and weight?
But another runaway self rises up and is gone,
thinning to the language of air, tagging the mountains and sky,
ecstatic to be free of body, never going back to that tired jail-shell.

Come back. Come back to the little room
with its equidistant corners, its matriarchal walls.
We’ll do the square dance of identity,
dosie-doe rabbi and doubter, poet and daughter,

swing your superego round and around,
promenade the bad girl who slid grown-up books
down the side of the bed. Stop. Quiet the clock.
Let the heart choose her own pace and swell:

brushstrokes smoothing the scalp, cherries
dropped one by one into a tea-toweled bowl,
that kind of Albuquerque rain that evaporates
before it ever touches ground.

from the vault: ralph j. salisbury

december Vol. 7 — 1965

Falling Down Mountains

I do not climb to fall
Or to hunt the deer, which fall
From my skill and luck; I go
So houses won’t crush me.
          A blunt friend splinting a hurt
          He has done to my pride, I think
          Of my father dead six days
          Before I had planned to take time
          For a visit, and slip to the dream:
          My brother and I and our wives
          In the dance of the living room fire,
          My father pacing the fields.
          “Are you lonely, Dad?” “Yes,
          I’m pretty lonesome.”
Clutching
At ferns which cut my hands,
Catching at stones that tumble,
I fall as well as I can,
Hoping someway the hurt can be splinted.


Ralph Salisbury (January 24, 1926 – October 9, 2017) was an American poet of Cherokee, Shawnee, Irish and English heritage. His poem “In the Children’s Museum in Nashville” was published in The New Yorker in 1960, making him one of the first Native American poets to receive national attention. He joined the U.S. Air Force at the age of 17 and served in World War II. He attended university on the GI Bill and transferred to the University of Iowa to study under Robert Lowell, where he earned his MFA. Salisbury published 11 books of poetry, three books of short fiction, and a prize-winning memoir. His autobiography So Far So Good won the 2012 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize. His book Light from a Bullet Hole: Poems New and Selected was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His poems were featured in the pages of december in Vol. 4 (1963), Vol. 7 (1965), and Vol. 24 (2013, the Revival Issue).

2019 curt johnson prose awards judges

We are pleased to announce our judges for the 2019 Curt Johnson Prose Awards. Submissions open March 1, see our contest page for more information.

Rita Mae Brown is the legendary award-winning author of Rubyfruit Jungle, more than 50 other novels, memoirs, poetry collections, and screenplays. Winner of 2015 Lambda Literary Pioneer Award. She is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; the Runnymede novels, including Six of One and Cakewalk; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; In Her Day; and many other books. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia, and is a Master of Foxhounds and the huntsman. http://www.ritamaebrownbooks.com

Amy Chua is the best-selling author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, The Triple Package, and Political Tribes, and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Chua is a lawyer, academic, and writer. She graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Her expertise is in international business transactions, law and development, ethnic conflict, and globalization and the law. https://www.amychua.com

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